The transition into university is never smooth sailing; it’s a complicated process that requires tremendous adjustment and time before the wrinkles get ironed out. I like to think of it like a baby bird being pushed out of the nest, forced to fend for itself and build a new home all on its own. While the allure of independence fuels excitement, there is no denying the underlying anxiety and nerves that are also present (for both us and the baby bird).
Moving away from my home country of Malaysia to Manchester was a daunting experience. I was weighed down by homesickness upon arriving in Manchester and couldn’t regain the same motivation and passion I had previously harboured for university. I unpacked my clothes into a wardrobe smaller than the one back home, went to sleep in a bed colder than before, and called home every single day—nothing seemed to cheer me up despite the supposed buzz of living in a new country.
This article, however, is not to dwell on my homesickness and anxious episodes; rather, I will share five ways that helped to quell my nerves and to call Manchester home. If you’re struggling—I hope they will help you too.
1. Get Out and Mingle!
Nobody floats past university in solitude; it’s a time when we meet peers from all walks of life, exchange stories, and learn from each other. When I first arrived at university, I had a
creeping fear that I wouldn’t be able to find friends who would click with me like the ones I had back home.
Nevertheless, it was unfeasible to survive university on my own. I decided to put myself out there and mingle with people, from various corners of the world, pursuing varying majors.
Since settling into this city, I’ve joined the Malaysian Students’ Society of Manchester (MSSM), the university’s content and student ambassador team, and other clubs that amplify my existing interests. Through attending events and workshops hosted by these societies and clubs, I got to know people with similar interests, which paved the path for blossoming friendships.
Now, I have a solid group of friends that I can fall back on in this unfamiliar city, talk to about absolutely everything, and friends who I know will be with me even after our university chapter closes.
No matter how scary it might seem, the responsibility to step out of your comfort bubble and meet people is yours. If you’re nervous to do so, just remind yourself that everyone else is probably thinking the same! All you have to do is take the first step.
2. Explore, explore, explore!
The best part of being in a new city is the exploration; it’s much like playing a game and unlocking different parts of the map: you never know what awaits you.
Whenever I have free time outside of classes, I would lace up my sneakers and head out for a day of adventure. Manchester is a fascinating city to stumble through, especially when the sun finds the courage to pierce through the dimming layers of clouds.
Walking aimlessly around and seeking out different locales in Manchester has not only helped me learn more about this city I will call home for the next few years, but it has also benefited me in identifying eateries to try out (as a Malaysian, good food is crucial!).
Plus, this aimless exploration does two things when you first arrive and are still trying to calm your jitters: first, it takes your mind off anything you might be worried about; second, it eventually leads you to your comfort place—which brings me to my next point:
3. Locate Your Comfort Place
I’m a strong believer that everyone should have a comfort place wherever they live, apart from their actual building of residence. For me, this is any bookstore in Manchester. Be it
Blackwell’s or Waterstones, as long as I am drifting between aisles of paperbacks, I am immediately enveloped by solace.
A comfort place doesn’t necessarily have to transport you back home, it just has to have the ability to ease your worries and ground you. Whenever you catch yourself beginning to stress out or worry over something—be it academics or otherwise—it helps to be situated in a space that brings you comfort. This can be a café that serves your favorite drink or a park fixed with a picturesque view.
So, if you’ve never designated a comfort place for yourself before, try it out! You’d be surprised by how much it helps to have someplace to constantly return to during your best and worst days.
4. Ring Home
Though moving to university seems like you have to leave your previous life behind, that’s not necessarily the case. Moving onto a new phase of life does not entail cutting ties with your previous chapter; in fact, it’s more important than ever to be tethered to home when you first move away.
Before I established my new group in Manchester, I called home multiple times a day to both my family and friends. Having a support system during a time of immense change means more than you would expect; so, if you’re ever feeling down in the dumps or seeing the entrance of rock bottom, call a friend or a family member—they ought to be your lighthouse and shine a pathway.
5. Remember Why You’re Here
Last but not least, keep reminding yourself of why you are here. Everybody comes to university seeking different purposes, yearning for different lessons. Differences aside, we all have a reason to be here, and that should be your motivation moving forward.
Personally, I’m keen to make an impact on my community back home, and pursuing higher education will enable me to do so. At the same time, I also strive to gain skills that will boost me toward a stable career so I can take care of my parents.
Instead of wallowing in my worries of not settling in, I actively remind myself of my aims and redirect my energy to those goals instead. If you need a more concrete token to remind you, write it on a sticky note and place it at your desk (it sure worked for me).
This shift into university is almost guaranteed to never be easy, but remember that it won’t be difficult forever if you refuse to let it be. So, take that step and spread your wings—you’ll come to love the view when you forget the fear of falling.